The One Health Reason to See Friends and Family More

October 6th 2015

Laura Donovan

It's easy to want to bail on post-work drinks or Sunday brunch with mom, but new research reveals that in-person exchanges with loved ones can decrease your risk of depression, especially if you mostly communicate with them through email or phone.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society just published a study by the University of Michigan that will come as good news to parents all over. People who see family and friends at least three times a week are significantly less likely to suffer from depression. The study, which observed 11,000 adults for more than two years, found that calling, texting, or emailing loved ones could make someone twice as likely to suffer from depression. According to the researchers, phone and written conversations appeared to have no impact on participants' depression levels.

"We found that all forms of socialization aren't equal," study author Alan Teo told the Telegraph. "Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression."

The findings also reveal that human contact has the biggest positive impact on people 70 or older.

"Research has long supported the idea that strong social bonds strengthen people's mental health," Dr. Teo said. "But this is the first look at the role that the type of communication with loved ones and friends plays in safeguarding people from depression."

Actual face time with loved ones can distract people from society's nonstop, all-consuming social media machine (unless, of course, these people are guilty of phubbing friends and family members during in-person visits). As ATTN: has noted before, too much social media time can threaten a person's well-being and self-worth. Earlier this year, researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Bradley University, and the University of Missouri Columbia published a study that found a link between heavy Facebook use and depression.

Margaret Duffy, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, told CNN Money that part of the depression comes from envy. Facebook users see how happy their friends are in photos of social outings and beyond and this can make outsiders compare their own lives.

"I have come to the conclusion that Facebook is a lifestyle magazine featuring my friends, who are doing it better than me," wrote CNN's Cara Reedy.